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‘Zero tolerance’ after report of sexual harassment at elite French military academy

Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | Students of the special military school Saint-Cyr attend a ceremony on March 20, 2016.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly has promised “zero tolerance” following a shock report on sexist and degrading practices targeting young female pupils at Saint-Cyr, France’s elite military academy.

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The report, published by left-leaning Libération newspaper on Friday, cast a damning light on a culture of misogyny, marginalisation and humiliation aimed at pushing female pupils out of the prestigious academy, described as “a machine that crushes women”.

Based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former students, it details the harassment routinely carried out by a group of male pupils known as the “Tradis” (traditionalists), who are also accused of espousing homophobic and racist views.

The harrowing pattern of molestation includes a complete refusal to acknowledge or converse with female pupils (except through insult), nighttime clatter to prevent them from sleeping, ritualised punishments and cases of defecation on their doorstep.

“It is unacceptable in the 21st century that young women should be subjected to such discrimination,” Parly, the defence minister, told RTL radio, promising tough new measures to stamp out the degrading practices carried out by a “minority” of students.

Parly suggested some of the culprits could be expelled from the elite school. She also evoked possible sanctions against teachers who “fail to react”.

France’s foremost military academy, Saint-Cyr supplies the French army’s future top brass. Steeped in tradition, it has long been associated with a macho culture typical of the military. Its first female cadets were admitted in 1983, almost two centuries after it was founded by Napoléon.

In 2015, the school’s economics preparatory class was scrapped due to “discriminatory behavior targeting female pupils” and the “hurtful and vexatious conduct” of the “Tradis”.

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